Historical vs. Devotional Biblical Study

I dated a fundamentalist Christian woman once. She was a very nice person, but she wanted me to convert to Christianity. I told her I supported and respected her beliefs but could not embrace them as my own. She liked me though, so for some reason she stuck with me for a while. All she asked was that I attend Bible study with her. I agreed, because why not? I might learn something.

Unfortunately, it was a bit disastrous. We attended a Bible study in a church and the fundamentalist cleric leading it spent most of the time denigrating science and reason, and not talking about the Bible at all - just putting down everything that contradicted it as the inerrant word of the Lord. I could see where it was leading. Kill off every idea against devotional acceptance of the Bible and all you are left with is devotional acceptance of the Bible. That's not what I was going for, and I was immediately put off. I wanted to get into the meat and potatoes of the "good book." I wanted to find out all the inner workings and drama from a rational scientific and historical standpoint. I wanted to learn about the people who put the Bible together and what their lives were like. But that was not the purpose of this particular Bible study.

On my own, I started reading some of Bart Ehrman's books on historical study of Jesus and the Bible, without the devotional mumbo jumbo of the fundamentalist churchies. Ehrman showed me the difference between devotional closed minded biblical study and historical, scientific, factual biblical study.

I had had a hard time understanding why the churchies avoided exploring the Bible historically, but Ehrman showed that it is a fundamental difference in approach. One is faith based, the other is reason based. With faith, you don't need facts or science, just blind belief. Conversely, reason is limited to what you can know through historical research. It is not interested in miracles so much as why the stories of miracles were included in the Bible.

Once I grasped the fundamental difference between historical biblical study and devotional biblical study, all bets were off. We were doomed.

I wanted to know stuff about the Bible like who really wrote it and how it came to be all in one book and why the stories all contradict in important ways. I wanted to know how it was a product of the times during which the various books were written and why the authors took the angles they did in telling the same stories in different ways. That seemed a lot more eye opening to me than simple ignorant acceptance of the book as the inerrant word of God. I could not understand why Christians would not desire to explore their book more deeply and richly through intimate historical study, even if the facts contradicted their long held devotional beliefs. Why did they fear truth?

In any case, I did not want to be brainwashed into devotional worship of a clearly errant and metaphorical mythology book. I wanted to go deep and rational.

She thought my desire to study the Bible historically was destructive. It was. But only to our relationship.

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